A sweeping new Obama administration strategy to protect plants, fish and animals from the hazards of global warming would require the government to set aside millions of acres of land to preserve threatened habitat.
"More than millions of acres across the landscape will be required," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "The lands will be protected by easement, by land acquisitions, by local, by land trusts, by state agencies, by federal agencies," he told reporters in releasing a 120-page National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, in the works for four years.
"We're doing it for wildlife preservation and we're thinking about climate," he added.
Under Obama, 4.5 million acres in 10 national wildlife refuges have already been set aside in part to ease the pressure of global warming on plants, fish and animals, said Ashe. A large purchase in Florida's Everglades, for example, is aimed in part at preserving grasses that can help prevent rising water from flooding the area and destroying animal habitat.
The new strategy, produced by several federal and state agencies and tribal groups, would expand that program to protect habitat under global warming pressure and used by everything from butterflies and robins to foxes and even coral. For example, more habitat for grizzly bears would be set aside so they can move north as their habitat warms.
The report provides goals and strategies but doesn't demand land purchases. It is meant to "inspire and enable natural resource managers, elected officials, and other decision makers to take action over the next five to 10 years to help our living resources adapt to climate change."
Among the potential horrific results of global warming highlighted in the report is the possibility that birch trees will become extinct, robbing two Indian tribes of the tree paperbark that "has been indispensable for canoes, sacred fires, and as a substrate to grow fungi for medicines."
Another: Warming temperatures on the Great Plains threaten the lesser prairie chicken. "Climate change models project that temperatures in the lesser prairie-chicken's range will climb by about five degrees and that precipitation will decrease by more than one inch per year by 2060. Such changes would likely harm the lesser prairie-chicken's chances of survival," said the report.